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> Christmas In Brittany, Breton Traditions
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 05-Sep-2004, 11:11 PM
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Hello all!

CelticRose's thread on Celtic Christmas music reminded that Christmas is not that far away. Because of this, I thought it might be interesting to see how the people of Brittany celebrate Christmas!

Well, this turned out to be a harder search than I thought it would be. I couldn't find much at all that dealt only with Breton Christmas traditions. I did, however, find some sites that discussed French Christmas traditions in general and mentioned Brittany.

So here is what I found. If anyone knows or finds any additional information on this topic, please post it here!

Allen

From http://www.christmas.com/worldview/fr:

Christmas Day is celebrated in France with all of the family coming together. On Christmas Eve, French children put their shoes (sabots) in front of the fireplace. They hope Pere Noel (Father Christmas) will fill them with presents. His partner Le PERE Fouettard (Father Spanker) would "reward" bad children with a spanking.

The midnight service on Christmas Eve is traditionally followed by a meal called ?le reveillon'. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants are open all night serving reveillon . Reveillon means to wake up, or first call of the day. So, Reveillon is a symbolic spiritual awakening to the meaning of Christ's birth. The meal can consist of oysters, sausages, wine, baked ham, roast fowl, salads, fruit and pastries. Christ cakes are baked and decorated with sugar to resemble the Holy Child. In south France a Christmas loaf (pain calendeau) is cut crosswise and is eaten only after the first part has been given to a poor person. In Alsace, a roasted goose has pride of place. In Brittany there are buckwheat cakes and sour cream. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are eaten. In the Paris region oysters are the favorite dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log. After the festivities, it is customary to leave a candle burning just in case the Virgin Mary passes that way.

In northern France, children are given their gifts on December 6th, which is Saint Nicholas Day, instead of Christmas Day.

Creche is a French word for manger or crib, and one little French town has become famous world-wide for its little figures used in Christmas cribs. It is Aubagne, a modest little Provenal town about halfway between Marseilles and Aix-en Provence, and is the home of the French Foreign Legion. Here craftsmen make unbaked clay figures called santons or ?little saints'. These were started by Jean Louis Lagnel . He held his first Foire aux Santons, a ?little saints festival', in 1803. It had included the regular nativity figures and sometimes a poacher - honored for enterprise, gendarme, a miller, a fishwife, a woman musician, and the village simpleton (le ravi).

From http://www.juntosociety.com/christmas/chri...tmasfrance.htm:

Christmas In France
by Sarah Toast

Christmas in France is a family holiday. The celebrations begin on December 5, which is St Nicholas Eve. It is a day for gift-giving between friends and relatives. On that cold night, children leave their shoes by the hearth so Père Noel, or Father Christmas, will fill them with gifts.

Christmas Eve is the most special time in the French celebration of Christmas. Church bells ring and voices sing French carols, called noels.

The family fasts all day, then everyone but the youngest children goes to midnight mass. The churches and cathedrals are beautifully lit, and most display a lovely antique crèche. Afterward, the family returns home to a nighttime feast that is called le reveillon. The menu is different in the various regions of France. In Paris, it might be oysters and pate, while in Brittany, the traditional midnight supper is buckwheat cakes and sour cream.

A few days before Christmas, the family sets up a nativity scene, called a crèche, on a little platform in a corner of the living room. Some families also decorate a Christmas tree with colorful stars, lights , and tinsel, but the crèche is more important. The tradition in Provence, in the south of France, is to include, along with the Holy Family, the Three Kings, the shepherds and the animals. Delightful little figures from village life dressed in old fashioned costumes. These figures might include a village mayor, a peasant, a gypsy, a drummer boy, and other colorful characters. Another tradition in Provence is for people to dress as shepherds an take part in a procession that circles the local church.

To complete the elaborate crèche in their home, children bring moss, stones, and evergreen branches for the finishing touches. When the candles are lit, the crèche becomes the centerpiece of the Christmas celebration. The children gather around it to sing carols every night until Epiphany, on January 6.

Christmas plays and puppet shows are popular entertainments at Christmas, especially in Paris an Lyons. The shop windows of large department stores have wonderful displays of animated figures that families like to visit.

If any children did not leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts by Pere Noel on St. Nicholas Eve, they leave them out on Christmas Eve to be filled by Père Noel or the baby Jesus. Before going to bed, some families leave food and a candle burning, in case Mary passes by with the Christ Child. In homes that have a Christmas three, Père Noel hangs little toys, candies, and fruits on the tree's branches for the sleeping children.

On Christmas Day, the family goes to church again and then enjoys another abundant feast of wonderful dishes, ending with the traditional buche de Noel, a rich buttercream-filled cake shaped and frosted to look like a Yule Log.

On New Year's, grown-ups visit their friends to exchange gifts with them and enjoy yet more feasting at the New Year's reveillon. The family gathers together again for a final feast on Epiphany on January 6. They eat a special flat pastry, a galette, that has a tiny old-fashioned shoe, a very little china doll, or a bean baked in it. Whoever finds the prize in their serving gets to be King or Queen for the day. As church bells ring, the celebration of the Christmas season comes to an end.

From http://www.terrace.qld.edu.au/academic/lot...mas5.htm#xtree:
(Note: this one doesn't mention Brittany, but does give more information on Christmas in France)

Sapin de Noël - Christmas Tree
In France, one of the most important decorations at Christmas time is the Sapin de Noël (Christmas tree). It is used in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories.

The idea of the Christmas came from Alsace in the 14th century. In thosse days, people decorated Christmas trees with apples, paper flowers, and ribbons. Alsace was then part of the German empire, but now it is a province in France.

The Sapin de Noël was introduced to France by a German Princess calledHélène de Mecklembourg. She brought one to Paris after her marriage to the French heir to the throne, the Duke of Orléans. The Christmas tree symbolizes what creation has to offer: light and the movement of angels, the gifts of the orchards and fields, forests and sea, all topped off by the star that points to Heaven.

Büche de Noël
The Büche de Noël is a special type of Christmas cake. It is a sponge cake which is rolled and shaped like a log. Inside there is often a creamy filling and it is covered in chocolate to make it look like a log. The log is a very ancient symbol associated with Christmas time.

The tradition of logs of wood and Christmas comes from the times before French people were Christian. People believed that some trees had very special powers which were made stronger through burning the wood and using the ashes. Part of the log was used to make the wedge for the plough as good luck for the coming harvest. People would burn the rest of the logs at a special festival in December called Yule.

The logs had to burn slowly for a whole week. Then people would spread the ashes and cinders on their fields. They believed this would bring them a better harvest. They also spread the ashes in the barns and lofts where they stored their corn since they kept rats and weevils away.

Some of the cinders and charcoal from the log were kept inside peoples' houses since it was believed that if you relit them during a thunderstorm it would protect your property from lightening.

In Southern France today, people still burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Years Day

The Christmas Crib - La Créche

St Francis of Assisi is said to have been the first to make a Crib. In a cave in Greccio, Italy, during Christmas 1223 he placed a real donkey and a real ox in his créche. The tradition of having a crib at Christmas became very common in Italy and France.

Nearly every French home at Christmas time has a crib or creche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. Each area in France has its own way of making the figures in the crib. They may be made from wood, pastry or clay and they are painted. They may be tiny or as big as life size. The creche in peoples' homes often has little clay figures called santons or "little saints."

These are little figures which are made by craftsmen in the south of France throughout the year. In addition to the usual Holy Family, shepherds, and Magi (the Three Kings), the craftsmen also make figures in the form of important local people and characters.

The craftsmanship involved in creating the gaily colored santons is quite astounding. The patterns for the moulds have been passed from generation to generation since the seventeenth century. Throughout December the figures are sold at annual Christmas fairs in the South of France

Père Noël - Santa Claus

French children receive gifts from Père Noël. Père Noël travels with his a companion called Père Fouettard who reminds Pere Noel of just how each child has behaved during the past year. Well behaved children receive presents. Children who have behaved badly could be spanked by Père Fouettard.

In some parts of France Père Noël brings small gifts on St. Nicholas Eve (December 6) and visits again on Christmas.

Children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel. In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree. In other places it is Le Petit Jésus who brings the gifts. Unlike Australia, adults wait until New Year's Day to exchange gifts.


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Slàn agus beannachd,
Allen R. Alderman

'S i Alba tìr mo chridhe. 'S i Gàidhlig cànan m' anama.
Scotland is the land of my heart. Gaelic is the language of my soul.
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MacAibhistin 
Posted: 06-Sep-2004, 12:19 PM
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Thank you so much for this great post, Ailean. This type of thing is very informative and wonderful. In a place like Brittany, I wonder how much of the traditions stem back to Celtic times, and how much are Frankish imports. Regardless, great post! thumbs_up.gif

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celtica 
Posted: 06-Sep-2004, 02:09 PM
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Very interesting post Wizard, but this traditions are typically French. If you don't mind, I would like to had some things that belong to the old traditions of Britanny, most of them pre-celtic. You'll see it's a bit darker.. laugh.gif

Before beguinning the réveillon, you'll have to wait until you can count 9 stars on the sky, to remind of the 9 months Mary had to wait before giving birth to Jesus.

The log was to warm up angels that have come down on the earth for Christmas. Men didn't see them but the animals had this power.

In Morbihan, other invisible creature were awaited around the log. You had to prepare benches and cutlery in order to allow the dead to drink and eat while the living are at the midnight service.

During Christimas night menhirs come out of the ground to calm their thirst on the river and they reveal the treasures that are hidden under them in the ground.

Christmas night in Brittany is favourable to supranaturals beings. Some people say that during the midnight service, at the moment of the elevation and only at this moment, ghost, faieries from woods and waters, korrigans, dragons treasures-keepers, werewolves and even the guide of the dead, the Ankou are visible.

You have to keep far from the animals during Christmas night. Because they can speak, but the only thing they want to tell is when the person who is listening to them is going do die.

But don't be afraid, Christmas is a happy day in Brittany too biggrin.gif

Here's is some typical Breton Music for Chritmas :

Music extracts
(clic on the left column to listen)

http://www.duodesbonnet-lelan.com/extrait_musicaux.php
(clic on Prière à Sainte Anne and Noce au village to listen)

Nedeleg laouen ! (merry christmas) smile.gif


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Que restera-t-il de notre sang mêlé au sel, sans trace dans les mémoires ? Une ultime navigation, trompeuse. Et des souvenirs, illuminés d'embruns. Mais condamnés au silence de la mer... Loïc Finaz.
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 06-Sep-2004, 09:04 PM
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Hi Celtica!

How fascinating! Thanks for sharing this! I looked everywhere for some more info on Breton Christmas traditions, but I couldn't find anything! Perhaps there was more on some of the French sites but unfortunately I don't have any French. I haven't had a chance yet to listen to the Christmas music you posted but I'm going to!

Again, thanks for sharing with us my friend!
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The_Spanish_Rover 
Posted: 24-Sep-2004, 12:34 PM
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Good to find out :-). It's curious every place has its own tradition about christmas..

I must say about the first pointed traditions that they're not only french... Aren't them from the hole west of Europe?
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celtica 
Posted: 02-Oct-2004, 11:35 AM
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QUOTE (The_Spanish_Rover @ 24-Sep-2004, 07:34 PM)
I must say about the first pointed traditions that they're not only french... Aren't them from the hole west of Europe?

Oh yes really ? I didn't know there was the same in other countries... smile.gif That's cool we are learning every day from each other.

I found a site where you can hear to an entire album of Christmas music from Brittany. Very beautiful choir indeed ! wink.gif . The title of the album is Noëls celtiques (Celtic Christmas) :

Noëls Celtiques

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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 26-Dec-2004, 11:45 PM
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Does anyone know how to say Merry Christmas in Breton? I know that the Breton word for Christmas is Nedeleg and Bloavezh Mat is Happy New Year!
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 26-Dec-2004, 11:50 PM
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Hi again!

After a brief search on the internet I found the answer to my own question at:

http://www.santas.net/howmerrychristmasissaid.htm

It is:

Nedeleg laouen

So to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It would be:

Nedeleg laouen na Bloavezh Mat!
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